Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan
May 7, 20:00 GMT (May 8, 01:30 IST)
With the Champions League dreams now extinguished, La Liga almost lost and Copa del Rey in the bag, Real Madrid now have to take on Sevilla in one of the most meaningless matches of the season, from their point of view. Add to this the fact that the second place finish is mathematically secure, and it is difficult to see where the motivation is going to come from.
Facing them are Sevilla, for whom this match will shape not only this season, but also the next. Sevilla are currently in a Europa league spot and have a four-point lead over the nearest rivals, Espanyol. However, with four matches to go, there is everything to play for as far as “Los nervionenses” are concerned.
Sevilla had a torrid start to the season and till the winter break, they seemed to be all but out of European contention. However, the arrival of Rakitic proved to be the missing piece of the jigsaw, and Sevilla now have their destiny in their own hands.
Team News and Tactical brief
This may very well be the last match where most of the “big guns” will be paraded. Mourinho has started rotating the squad, and it is possible that some ‘Castilla’ players may feature in this match.
Mourinho has been trying out a few novelties in his games, as he showed in the last match against Real Zaragoza. In this match, there were no traditional wingers, but rather centre of the pitch players – Kaka, Canales, Granero and Pepe – marshalling the midfield. With Benzema and Higuain as the strikers, the idea was to pack the centre of the park and dominate possession. However this tactic failed miserably, as Real conceded three goals in the first half itself. It was only after Di Maria, Ozil and Marcelo came on the field, did Real manage to score a couple of goals and restore some respectability to the scoreline.
This is actually quite a worrying trend, as the squad ‘reserves’ have failed to live up to the expectations in general. Every team that is supposed to challenge on all three fronts should have their squad players performing to the optimum.
Although the league is practically over, Real Madrid will not give any breathing ground to Barcelona; expect a full strength lineup, with Granero partnering Alonso in the middle.
Expected lineup (4-2-3-1): Casillas; Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo; Alonso, Granero, Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo; Higuain
Sevilla are entering into their most crucial phase without their most influential player: Ivan Rakitic. Rakitic has almost single-handedly turned around a season for Sevilla, where everything looked to be lost and over. He has been ruled for the rest of the season with a fracture, and it is vital that the others can keep the momentum going forward.
Coach Gregorio Manzano has been struggling with a threadbare squad, and called upon four youth-teamers to complete the numbers in the squad. One youth teamer Luis Alberto was surprisingly included in the final list of the squad which will be facing Real Madrid.
Kanoute too is struggling with injuries, and it is not yet confirmed that he will figure in the match.
Sevilla will look to stretch Real Madrid with their wing play, and try to put some through balls and crosses for their target man Alvaro Negredo. Both Capel and Perotti will look to pin back defenders with their pace and trickery; it is especially important, when one takes into account that Marcelo and Ramos are both susceptible to leaving gaps at the behind. Out of the other three midfielders, Medel and Romaric will be entrusted to keep the things tight in the middle, despite the fact that Medel’s favoured position is on the wings. Renato will be required to push forward and ensure that Negredo is not isolated in the front. The entire Sevilla team will have to function like clockwork to ensure that they can overcome a very good, albeit an extremely demoralized, Real Madrid side.
Expected Lineup (4-5-1): Javi Varas; Julien Escudé, Federico Fazio, Fernando Navarro, Rodri; Romaric, Gary Medel, Renato, Perotti, Capel; Negredo
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Alvaro Negredo(Sevilla) : “The beast of Vallecas” was guilty of missing a gilt edged chance last time around when these two sides met. That strike could have put Sevilla ahead and with a man advantage, Sevilla could have easily seen out a victory. As it happened, the miss proved to be decisive, as Angel Di Maria struck a late winner to condemn Sevilla to a defeat by a solitary goal.
He will be looking to make amends this time around and will try ensure that the passage of Sevilla into Europe is all but sealed.
Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid): “El Pipa” has only recently returned from injury. For a player who has regularly scored twenty odd goals each season, along with a bagful of assists, this match should not matter much. But with Madrid in the market for a striker, he will need to prove himself once again, so that new arrival who comes in is not brought in as a regular starter.
Sevilla 1- 1 Real Madrid
It is a match where in the question – “who is hungrier?” – will be answered. On this count, Sevilla certainly need this victory much more than Real. However, the injury to Rakitic is a massive blow for Manzano and his men. This injury may prove decisive as far as the final result is concerned.
Overall, the quality of Madrid and hunger of Sevilla could cancel each other out, and a low scoring draw seems to be on the cards.